The following article is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.
Arden of Feversham, a play by an unknown writer, was first printed in 1592 under the full title of The lamentable and true Tragedie of M. Arden of Feverahsm, in Kent, who was most wickedlye murdered, by the means of his disloyall and wanton wyfe, who, for the love she bare to one Mosbie, hyred two desperat ruffins, Blackwill and Shakbag, to kill him. Wherein is shewed the great malice and discimulation of a wicked woman, the unsatiable desire off filthie lust and the shamefull end of all murderers. This drama, which Fleay is inclined to ascribe to 1585, and which, he thinks, "there is some ground for attributing to Kyd", was founded on the details of a crime actually committed at Feversham in 1550, and referred to in the Privy Council Register for 1551, where "Arden" is spelled "Arderne." In 1578 had appeared a play called Murderous Michael, which apparently dramatized the murder, and to which Arden of Feversham may owe something. The latter work was reprinted in 1599, 1633, and 1770--in the last-named year with a preface in which the editor, Jacob, strongly urged the claims of Shakespeare to the authorship. Those claims, which have been regarded somewhat favourably by A.C. Swinburne (see his Study of Shakespeare, 1880), are rejected by a later editor of the play, A.H. Bullen (1887), who, however, says "it is in the highest degree probable that Arden was one of the plays which received correction and revision from Shakespeare's hand." The Quarterly Review says of the unknown writer that, "whoever he was, he not only possessed incomparably the greatest purely dramatic genius which had revealed itself in tragedy anterior to that period of Shakespeare's mature activity, but he exercised, in conjunction with the writers of the school of which he was the representative, a very marked influence on the development of popular tragedy" (October, 1885). Donne, in his Essay on the subject (1873), points out that the work is "one of the comparatively few plays of the sixteenth century of which the plot and action are founded upon English life and manners."
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